From a good friend, Yajna Patni:
"My recipe for suji halwa is simple. its quite sweet, but not sickenly so, but you could lessen the sugar if you liked.
It is one cup of semolina, and one cup of butter. ( i like butter better than ghee, but that might not be right) roast the semolina in the butter over a low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. The slower it roasts, the better it tastes. When it is done the butter should separate out, and it should smell sweet. Add all at once two cups of boiling water and stir off the heat. When it seems absorbed, add one cup of sugar and stir. it will seem to wet. put the lid on and let it sit for 10 minutes.
not boiling the sugar and water together makes a lighter fluffier halwa I find. Some times syrup is too thick to absorb.
You can add saffron or cardamom to the water, or chocolate chips with the sugar." http://www.anothersubcont...n/index.php?t1229.html
My note: traditionally, you gently fry good quality sultanas until just puffed in ghee,which is not quite clarified butter. Then, an assortment of nuts: slivered almonds, raw cashew, pistachio if you are feeling rich! These are fried fried golden;reserve for garnish. These are stirred into the sooji which is similar to semolina during the final stage; fluff with fork, sprinkle with nuts.
Using saffron: Use a tiny pinch while making the sugar syrup. NEVER TOAST SAFFRON, NO MATTER WHO TELLS YOU!!!!!! Drop stamens into the hot water. VANILLA Imports has very good saffron. Sadaf Mail Order, likewise. You pay for quality. Will store 9-10 years in glass in freezer.
Using GREEN cardamom: purchase an 8-7 oz bag WHOLE PODS from Indian grocer. Great for chai, Christmas cookies, Nordic sweet breads, pilafs, biryanis, Indian cooking & sweets. Will store 2-3 years in freezer. Gently pop with your nail the tips or very lightly pound whole pod. Then cook with semolina when roasting in hot butter.
BUTTER: Use UNSALTED, much fresher. Add pinch sea salt to awaken flavor.
INDIAN CASSIA LEAF, Cinnamonum tamala, NOT BAY LEAF, may also be added while roasting, in addition to cardamom, for a touch of West Bengal!
Sooji Halwa in North India, Mohanbhog in West Bengal, Kharabhath in Karnataka!!
In the North, often eaten steaming hot with PURI, a fried bread somewhat similar to sopaipillas. That is why the sweetness is high, because it gets cut with plentiful puri.
One problem with cooking North Indian [or Bengali] gravied/dry dishes: these are meant to be eaten with a LOT of INDIAN BREAD or RICE PLUS OTHER THINGS IN THE SAME MOUTHFUL, as in 70-80% bread/rice, then dal, chutney or salad or raita, only then mixed with the so-called "entree"!!
I see many Americans spooning the very very rich gravy and a minuscule amount of rice or bread and then complain about oily, spicy food!! Do you eat meatballs & red sauce + parmesan cheese minus the pasta? Think how unbalanced that would taste!
Italians put even LESS sauce on their pasta & FEWER toppings on their pizzas than do Americans. They want to TASTE the WHEAT!!!
Absolutely the same principle with N.Indian food! If you are CLEARLY & PRIMARILY NOT TASTING THE WHEAT OR THE FRAGRANCE OF THE RICE, YOU ARE NOT EATING the food as it was meant to be eaten. So any judgment is your own problem!!
That said, 95% of "Indian" restaurants are horrors. Read reviews by Indians of Indian restaurants for some really pungent words!! e.g. nyindia.com, searchindia, etc.
Here is an excellent pair of recipes by DHARAMJIT SINGH [INDIAN COOKERY] posted here: http://www.anothersubcont...p;st=0&#entry19119
Urd = Vigna mungo; it is sold whole as a small black legume or hulled & split [other variations too]. You will see them marked URAD DAL in Indian & many mainstream groceries. They are best cooked for thes e2 recipes on slow heat e.g. a Crockpot on low or a low oven. Khara Maahn
]Khara =whole, maahn is the Punjabi form of MAASH, the Sanskrit name of Urad]
Take 1/2 lb. white urd lentils, wash, clean and soak them overnight, drain, then place in a very heavy pan and enrich with 2 oz. butter. Add 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley, 4 crushed cardamoms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a good pinch asafoetida, a few chopped mint leaves and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix and then moisten with just enough water to cover. Mix again, and poach (as you would rice), using lowest possible heat. Moisten lightly as often as necessary, but do not inundate with water. Test by extracting a few grains from the centre with a perforated spoon. When these are tender but whole (like rice grains) the lentils are done. If desired add 6 tablespoons melted butter and some chopped chives. Serve hot. Black or whole urd or maahn lentils
are cooked in the same way, but enough water is added to produce the consistency of a thick purée. If the lentils are cooked with butter, long and slowly enough - about 4 hours or more - they will turn a pinkish grey. Use 4 oz. or more of butter for every half pound of lentils and the result will be the most velvety dish imaginable. For an even richer dish substitute milk for a portion of water, and add 2 tablespoons cream and a little yoghurt [beaten so that it will not curdle] half an hour before the lentils are done.
My note: you can also add a handful of PINK beans or PINTO beans per lb of whole urad beans, when you begin to soak, for textural contrast.
<message edited by pimple2 on Sun, 08/29/10 5:02 PM>